8 bars with: rachel z hakim

Our guest is GRAMMY Award winning jazz and rock pianist Rachel Z Hakim

8 bars with is a series on educated guesses where we offer up 8 questions to a special guest for them to ponder and freestyle on.  The questions aren't necessarily questions as much as they are prompts or linguistic ink blots meant to stimulate thought.  The responses can be short and pithy, long and loquacious or somewhere in between. 

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New York-born pianist/keyboardist Rachel Z Hakim is one of the most influential and versatile musicians of her generation. Fluent in jazz, alt-rock and electronica, she recorded ten solo albums and co-wrote the Grammy Award-winning, Gold Record "Tokyo Blue," by saxophonist Najee. Hakim has worked with a number of stars and groups including Steps Ahead, Stanley no Clarke and Terri Lyne Carrington. Her most prominent gigs as a sidewoman were with Wayne Shorter, on his 1995 Grammy winning album, High Life, and with Peter Gabriel on his Growing Up tour from 2002 to 2006.

In 2010, she formed The Trio of OZ with husband Omar Hakim, which also included bassist Solomon Dorsey. In 2017, the Hakims, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Mauritian bassist Linley Marthe formed the electronica, jazz, funk and rock supergroup, Ozmosys. Their debut EP, Eyes to the Future, Vol. 1, was released in 2019.

1. When did you fall in love with jazz ...?

When I was in high school, I was going to be an opera singer like my mom. But my dad had Workin’ and Steamin’ by Miles Davis, and I fell in love with his solo on “Diane,” which I transcribed. Then I bought two LPs: Nice Guys by Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Miles Smiles, where I learned Herbie’s solo on “Circle.” That whole album became one of life’s great mysteries. I had to follow that music! I had to become A JAZZ MUSICIAN!!!

2. Who are your main piano/keyboard influences ...?

Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Bud Powell, Wynton Kelly, Joanne Brackeen, and Lyle Mays.

3. What was it like playing in the 80s and 90’s ...?

It was an incredible NYC scene then!!! I am so grateful for the energy of this time period. I got to play Avery Fisher Hall with Steps Ahead, and at all the clubs with my trio with Charnett Moffett and Billy Hart, Victor Bailey and Lenny White, and at the China Club with the Jimi Tunnell band. I booked bands five nights a week at Bond Street Cafe, and I played and recorded internationally with Wayne Shorter, and Bobby Watson. I also did some pop gigs with Savage Garden and Pino Daniele. I was featured on the Tonight Show with Brandford Marsalis and Jeff Watts for my first album on Columbia, Trust the Universe. I recorded Room of One’s Own for NYC Records for one of my most important mentors, Mike Mainieri of Steps Ahead.

4. What gains have women made in jazz, and what challenges remain ...?

There are occasional shows of political correctness, but there is no real progress regarding women instrumentalists. As a woman instrumentalist, you must simply be the best, know what you are doing, and work three times as hard. You must compose and lead your own band. I personally ask for nothing, but to be heard blindly, and respected for my art. That being said, I do respect the work of Berklee President Roger Brown, and Terri Lyne Carrington’s Berklee Institute of Jazz Gender Equity. Their efforts are sincere and powerful. If women work together to help each other, and also help men, we ALL can win as jazz musicians.

5. What did you learn from working with Wayne Shorter ...?

Musically, he has all the answers about harmony, melody, and composing. Those secrets reside in my heart, and are part of every performance and song in any style that I do. Recording High Life with Wayne and winning a Grammy with him was a very huge pinnacle for me. I worked closely in the album’s pre-production phase. I was responsible for the CD's forty tracks of synthesized orchestral sounds, and acoustic piano solos, meshing the synth orchestra with the live ensemble to create a unique and innovative soundscape. It was my soul’s life mission to understand his music.

6. What was it like working with Peter Gabriel ...?

He's a master musician, and one of the greatest songwriters of all time, with the most emotional voices I’ve ever heard. Peter’s concept for visual presentation of the music has given me ideas that I’m only just being able to realize as I finally commit to developing myself as a visual artist.

7. What is it like working with your husband Omar Hakim ... ?

He is THE CONSUMMATE musician: skill, refinement, virtuosity, taste, groove. Omar allows me to fly and improvise without limits. He is an inspiration for freeing my mind into the creative flow ... and together we have all the tools we need to create at the highest level. Our life together is a musical smorgasbord … my favorite place on Earth. A safe place where love thrives. We put our best foot forward, our best focus forward, and we leave the results in the hands of the Lord. We are free.

8. What makes your superband Ozmosys special ...?

They are great jazz musicians, and leaders in the realms of beauty, groove, improvisation, composition, harmony, and emotion!  For me, the group has perfect chemistry for all of our writing and our improvisational conversations, while we draw from lifetimes of experience in many styles. This is a very special band.

Bonus Question:

What upcoming projects do you have on the horizon ...?

 I have three releases due in 2020: a multimedia project I produced, engineered and recorded for Luna Lagos entitled Way of the Word, a trio EP entitled Sensual, and a second Ozmosys CD, Eyes to the Future: Volume 2.